What Causes Hair Loss in Pets?

It’s normal for dogs and cats to experience some hair loss throughout the year. Shedding has normal seasonal components. For example, at animal clinics across Toronto, we notice more shedding and dry flaky skin on family pets once furnaces go on in the fall and winter. Using a humidifier can help alleviate some of the problem.

Dogs and cats who spend a lot of time outdoors get their shedding cues from Mother Nature. With less sunshine and cooler temperatures in the fall, they start shedding to make room for their thick winter coats. On the reverse side, when days grow longer and warmer in the spring, they start losing their winter coat to grow thin hair. But with indoor family pets spending most of their time under artificial lights, they tend to shed evenly all year round.

Hormones play a part in it too. Females going through a heat cycle tend to drop a lot of hair once it’s over. Spaying and neutering can also lead to increased shedding and a “peach fuzz” look to their fur.

While some shedding is normal, losing so much hair that patchy bald spots form is not. This type of hair loss is known as Alopecia, but there are many possible underlying causes that should be assessed by your pet’s veterinarian.

What symptoms should you look for in unusual hair loss?
If you notice that your dog or cat has any of the following symptoms, or if problems persist for more than one week, consult with your veterinarian for treatment.

  • Skin irritation (redness, bumps, rashes or scabs)
  • Open sores
  • Bald spots or thinning of coat
  • Tuffs of dry hair that pull out easily
  • Excessive scratching
  • Constant foot licking or face rubbing

What could be causing excessive hair loss?
It could be due to any one of the following issues, which your vet will need to rule out before beginning treatments.

  • Parasites (fleas, lice or mites)
  • Fungal or bacterial infections
  • Inhalant or food-related allergies
  • Kidney, liver, thyroid or adrenal disease (including Cushing’s)
  • Pregnancy or lactation
  • Certain medications
  • Self-induced trauma due to licking
  • Cancer
  • Immune disease
  • Sunburn
  • Contact with irritating or caustic substances

If none of these issues are causing your pet’s hair loss, your veterinarian may suggest dietary supplements to increase their melatonin levels or omega fatty acids in their diet. Both encourage normal hair growth and help reduce the amount of hair they shed.

Getting a proper diagnosis
If you think your pet’s hair loss is excessive or out of the ordinary, it’s vital that they see a veterinarian as soon as possible. If you’re looking for veterinary clinics in Toronto, we run a cat clinic as well as see dogs and other family pets. Contact Brimley-Lawrence Animal Clinic today. Your pet will thank you for it!
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